Friday, May 3, 2013

The Real Reason for Las Excusas

Early this morning, we saw some good news. Last month, national unemployment fell to 7.5% as the economy added 165,000 jobs in April. In addition, the jobs reports for February and March were also revised upward. If it weren't for continued austerity (private sector jobs rose by 176k, but public sector jobs dropped by 11k), our economy would be in a strong recovery by now.

Remember this: Austerity is challenging our economic recovery. Immigration, on the other hand, is not. If anything, our economy relies on immigration.

Here's how immigrants make our economy work:

1. Immigration improves technological innovation. High-skilled immigrant workers boost innovation and in turn increase the productivity and utility of their surrounding workforce. Silicon Valley would be throwing its support behind immigration reform, and rightfully so: Over half of all new start-ups have been started by foreign-born founders, and 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children, even though foreign-born individuals only make up an eighth of America’s population.

Currently, there are far more applicants for H-1B high-skilled visas than are available. The Senate bill would create a new visa for entrepreneur engineers who have secured funding to create startups, set a higher quota set for H-1B visas, and make a merit-based green card system that attracts immigrants with advanced degrees.

2. Immigrants increase workers’ wages. A Center for American Progress study found that U.S. gross domestic product would grow by $1.4 trillion between 2013 and 2022 if legalization were conferred to the undocumented population this year. Another study, conducted by Brookings in 2010 found that “immigrants raise the overall standard of living of American workers by boosting wages and lowering prices.” Immigrants and American workers do not compete for the same jobs, but actually have complementary jobs. In that way, immigrants help to increase the productivity —and wages —of native populations.

3. Immigrants shore up Social Security. According to Stephen Gross, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, undocumented workers paid $15 billion into Social Security “with no intention of ever collecting benefits.” Without the estimated 3.1 million undocumented immigrants paying into the system, “Social Security would have ‘entered persistent shortfall of tax revenue to cover payouts starting in 2009.” Additionally a 2007 study concluded that a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would bring $57 billion to Social Security funds by 2017, while another study predicts that immigrants will add $611 billion to the Social Security system over the next 75 years.

4. Immigrants feed America. The U.S. food system largely depends on immigrant farm workers. According to a 2010 Philip Marin and Linda Calvin study, over half the hired farm workers are not authorized to work in the United States. As a result, immigrants are often exploited with depressed wages and harsh working conditions. However, in a move in the right direction that protects immigrant laborers, states like California are finally proposing legislation that seeks to allow farm workers the ability to report abuse.

Still don't believe me and ThinkProgress? Believe Geoconda Arguello Kline. She immigrated to the US from Nicaragua in 1979. She arrived in Las Vegas in 1983, began working as a guest room attendant at Fitzgerald's... And now, serves as Secretary-Treasurer of Culinary 226.

So she knows firsthand how immigrants contribute to our economy and our community.

So do these fine people.

At Wednesday's May Day rally for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), we saw many examples of how immigrants contribute to our economy. They work up and down The Strip. And really, they keep The Strip humming.

In addition, immigrants work in our homes. And they work in our restaurants. And they serve in our military. And they attend our colleges. And they keep our health care system running from top to bottom. And they keep our technology sector healthy.

And so on, and so forth...

Long story short: Our economy depends on immigrants. So why is CIR so controversial? American born and immigrant workers benefit from reform, along with businesses. And among the American people, CIR is actually quite popular!

So what gives? Cone on, do you really need me to tell you? Just take a look at the "tea party" to your far, far, far right.

As we've discussed before, teabaggers are exerting pressure on Republican Members of Congress to oppose CIR regardless of what the final bill looks like. And already, it's causing at least some of them to walk away from the negotiating table. They've been using (their hatred of) LGBTQ families as an excuse. They've also been using (their craven exploitation of) terrorism as an excuse. And now, they're topping it off with bogus process excuses (that are actually centered on their hatred of President Obama).

The policy case for comprehensive immigration reform is actually quite strong. So don't listen to pundits claiming policy as the reason CIR faces trouble in Congress. Rather, the reasons for CIR's immense hurdles in Congress involve ideology and politics. Or more specifically, "tea party" obstructionism is now threatening what's supposed to be "The Great Bipartisan Achievement of 2013" (since austerity keeps looking less like an achievement and more like an EPIC FAIL with each passing day).

Oh, and we're still waiting for Senator Dean Heller (R-"TEA" Curious) to say something.

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